`Big win' carries weight with NCAA

Duke's beating Virginia trumped Hofstra's run

Yale's upset got long look

Men's notebook

College Lacrosse

May 08, 2002|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

If the criteria used by the NCAA men's lacrosse committee were applied to basketball, Florida State would have made the 65-team tournament two months ago.

The Seminoles had a losing record in the Atlantic Coast Conference and lost 10 of their last 12 games. They were swept by Wake Forest, but under lacrosse logic, Florida State would have been more deserving than the Demon Deacons because it scored a "big win."

In January, the Seminoles upset Duke, which was No. 1 for much of this past basketball season. Never mind that Florida State turned out to be a one-game wonder; it was able to beat one of the powers that be, which is primary in men's lacrosse, as those very same Blue Devils can tell you.

To review: Duke has a spot in the NCAA tournament, and Hofstra does not. Two weeks ago, the Pride handled the Blue Devils. Hofstra won its last nine games. It lost to top-ranked Johns Hopkins, No. 3 Princeton and Loyola. Duke went 7-6, but its final win was over No. 4 Virginia. Never mind that the Cavaliers went on to lose to Penn State; beating them was the golden ticket for the Blue Devils.

Phil Buttafuoco, chairman of the men's lacrosse committee, said "an entire season is more important than one game," but the results of its work argue otherwise. For teams on the bubble, head-to-head results have become meaningless in comparison to the "big win" factor.

Further proof that there's something rotten in the selection system: Yale got a closer look from the committee than Loyola or Maryland. Yes, the Bulldogs beat Princeton, and the Ivy League went five deep with solid teams, but they finished the season with a six-goal loss to the Terps.

A prediction for 2003: When the NCAA expands to 16 teams and nine at-large berths, the complaints over who's left out won't cease. Just being ranked in the top 10 is an accomplishment these days; if field expansion had come in time for this year, Loyola or Maryland still would have been left out.

Twice as nice

Who's the only coach with two teams in the NCAA tournament? Dave Pietramala of Johns Hopkins. His second season with the Blue Jays brought them a No. 1 seed, but before he returned to Baltimore, Pietramala built a sturdy foundation at sixth-seeded Cornell, as the Big Red's head coach from 1998 to 2000. Pietramala recruited Cornell's upper classes, and two years ago guided the Big Red to its second NCAA berth since 1989.

"I'm very pleased for Coach [Jeff] Tambroni and the kids," Pietramala said, "and I'm kind of glad that they're not in our half of the bracket."

Fairfield's big gun

When Fairfield upgraded its program, the Connecticut school wanted to join the ECAC. Turned down by that conference, the Stags joined the league that includes Notre Dame and Ohio State, and made the Great Western a misnomer.

Fairfield faces Massachusetts, the ECAC champ, in Saturday's first round at Brown, and the Stags probably wouldn't be in their first NCAA tournament if not for Matt Buecker, a junior out of North Harford High. He's connected on 29 of 63 shots, and scored what turned out to be the game-winner when the Stags posted the program's biggest win ever, at Notre Dame April 21.

"In the past, Matt was more of a finisher, but this year he's been able to take it to the cup," coach Ted Spencer said. "He was part of our first scholarship class. He always contributed, but this year he turned into a premier kid who's able to take guys one-on-one."

Player of the Week

Mike LaMonica, Maryland. The senior out of Calvert Hall concluded his career with six goals and two assists in a 19-9 rout of UMBC.

Game of the Week

Unfortunately, there is none, at least in Division I. Last year's first round included Hofstra stopping Virginia in overtime; Towson beating Duke by two goals; and Loyola getting Georgetown by two. With the move to automatic qualifiers, there will be no such fireworks this year.

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